- by Lloyd Bayer
The difference is fairly simple, with a few tell-tale signs that you should watch out for. Movies generally fall into three categories by way of production and distribution, commonly known as A, B and C by the film industry.
These are projected to be high-grossing block busters by the makers. Whether it shatters the box-office or not, the next consideration is the film's contribution towards motion pictures as an art form. If you are thinking awards, I've got your attention. The most distinguished being Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards and lately MTV and Cannes film festival awards. Obviously, big movies, award winning or not require big budgets. At the turn of the millennium, the industry saw producers injecting $60-$100 million per film. Almost a decade later that figure has jumped to $120-$150 million and rising. The cost is incurred by an ever improving and subsequent demand for special effects used in almost all genres. Add to that, salaries of today's mega-stars, which exclude costs of their preferred choice of travel and stay when filming on various locations in and outside the US. So the demand for highly paid actors like Brad Pitt or George Clooney naturally entitles them to be called A-list stars. Like wise, acclaimed directors and producers of this caliber fall under the same banner, equating A-movies to an A-list cast and crew responsible for making quality films-good enough reason for your time and money.
Commonly known as second rate films, you would do good to avoid them at your own cost and time. Before I bring out its salient characteristics, allow me to chalk up some history on this subject. In retrospect, the late 1930s saw the end of silent feature movies with the introduction of sound, music and voices. But even as this was happening, films were too short, typically 50-60 minutes. To make a cinema outing longer, double features were introduced. This essentially was a second feature screened before or after the main film. This â"filler" as it was called, was modestly budgeted at around $10,000, quite contrary to $250,000 and above slated for the main feature. This went on until the 1950s when after the introduction of â"Technicolor" and â"Cinemascope", main features were by themselves 90-180 minutes, eradicating the need for fillers. But it did not stop there, Low budget films started to boom as well, catering distribution rights to small town cinema houses and open air drive-ins. More than a good laugh, most viewers love a good scare. So these B-movies then started appearing as exploitation films, mainly in the horror genre. Not only did it start to sound cheesy, but the gist of the plot was given away in the title itself. The Monster from the Ocean Floor and Creature from the Black Lagoon started a whole new breed of B-movies. Unexpectedly, some of these films actually turned into instant hits of the 1960s like Psycho, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatcher.
The decline in demand and ratings rose when the spoofs started. Piranha (1978) though scary, bloody and almost funny was a rip-off of Steven Spielberg's 1975 cult classic Jaws. Soon this turned into a mockery; Girls in Chains was re-made into a low budget film and was even called Women in Cages. Besides the tacky titles, low budget production and comical remakes, other aspects soon caught the eye of the general public. This included but was not limited to unknown actors, poor scripting, acting and bad editing with musical scores louder than the actor's voice, besides unrealistic action and death sequences. Instant fatality from a bullet to the stomach while missing all vital organs, blowing up a house with a single fragmentation grenade and car crashes resulting in a huge ball of fire forms some of the unrealistic and over done scenes still applied in B-movies. With no demand from distributors, these films went straight to VHS and lately DVDs. The one good aspect of a B-movie was the opportunity for up and coming actors to impress legendary directors and producers. Believe it or not, some of these actors were Ronald Regan, John Wayne, Pam Grier and even Jack Nicholson. But the flip side is, washed out actors on the way out would get no other offers and had no choice but to star in low budget films. While a typical B-movie costs $30,000-$50,000 to produce today, you might want to spend you T&M on films with budgets exceeding $100 million. The big players to look for are MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal. Sony pictures, Columbia and Spielberg's SKG are also top contenders not to be missed along side Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios catering a lighter side of films.
Lastly we have what is now known as C movies, which you really have little choice in. These are frequently worse, with all or more of the negative aspects considered under B-movies. Your choice is limited by the fact that these movies go straight from the director's â"cut" to cable TV and is exclusively made for TV. With scores of network cable channels across the planet, low budget films are in huge demand irrespective of the short time it takes to produce one, just so subscribers can boast about their four plus movie channels. The results are usually uninspired acting, film making, and mindless scripts that serve only as â"fillers" before or after a decent movie on the cable schedule. Check your movie listings for the day and you will discover a ratio of 1:3 on a twenty-four hour cycle in terms of decent or good versus lousy movies.
To sum it up, viewers do have a choice between a potentially good movie and a bad one. It all lies in the five minutes or less it takes to examine a film's credentials. These include the makers and producers, actors, distributors and even the theme or genre. Marketing is also important as trailers, TV spots and Taglines give you an idea of what to expect. But a Tagline that goes like â"One man. One mission. 1000 bullets" should alert you as a definite no-no. Finally, a critic's review is a factor to be considered, as this either makes or breaks a film's reception.